Ken Lunn was having a ‘hellish’ time juggling work and childcare after his wife died. Then he found a way to catch his breath.


The Guardian reports that throughout his 30-year career as a tech professional, Ken Lunn regularly gave talks to rooms packed with experts and leaders in their fields. Yet it wasn’t until he taught his first meditation class to a dozen novices in 2016 that he felt nervous.

“Guiding a meditation to a silent room was the most nerve-racking thing I’d done,” he says. “Trying to get people to explore their own psychology and leading as an example is a terrifying experience.”

At 60 years old, Lunn had recently retired from his data and IT management role in the NHS and decided to pursue an entirely different passion – one that had become central to his wellbeing in middle age. In 1989, when he was in his mid-30s with three young
children, Lunn’s wife Susan was diagnosed with skin cancer.

She died in 1993. Suddenly finding himself a single parent juggling work and childcare, Lunn began to suffer from depression and insomnia. “It was a hellish few years as a sole carer,” he says. “I didn’t know how to cope but one day a friend recommended that I try meditation to see if it could at least help me sleep.”

Struggling to find a meditation teacher during a time when mental health was still a touchy talking point, Lunn eventually began attending a transcendental meditation class. “It very quickly allowed me to calm my mind down with just 20 minutes of meditation each morning and evening,” he says. “The insomnia went away and I started to feel as if I could breathe again.”

As he adapted to his new life without Susan, Lunn carried on exploring the world of meditation through learning about Buddhist practices and mindfulness. By the time he was in his late 50s and considering retirement, he was regularly using it as a way to deal with daily stress and realised there might be a way that he could put his years of experience to wider use.

“Meditation changed my life so much, so I wanted to give back,” he says. “I also have a scientific background and was never comfortable with meditation often having a spiritual component you had to ascribe to. I wanted to find a way of teaching it with more rigour.”

In 2014, he moved to part-time work and enrolled in a master’s qualification in mindfulness at Bangor University. “I have a PhD in computing but that was the most challenging academic thing I’ve done,” he says. “It was all about exploring your personal experience and being able to share that.” In turning inwards, Lunn revisited the impact of Susan’s death on his life. “It became transformative in the way that I viewed myself because I realised how I had tried to get on with the positives but ignored the negatives,” he says. “The course rebalanced me and encouraged me to be open about my inner life. As a man it can be hard to do but we created a safe space.”

Qualifying in 2016 and newly retired, Lunn immediately began teaching at a Buddhist centre in Wakefield, as well as at yoga studios and in an adult education college. By the following year, he had hired his own room and built a committed group of attenders keen to learn the techniques of mindful breathing and observation.

“It’s all about teaching people tools to deal with the stresses of daily life, as well as building an informal practice of noticing what’s going on around you,” he says. “Mindfulness can be really restorative in allowing ourselves to be grounded in the present. I have many people who have experienced mental health issues, and who said that coming to the classes has transformed their lives.”

Moving to online work during the pandemic, Lunn currently holds weekly drop-in classes for people of all abilities, and helps supervise trainee teachers for the charitable organisation The Mindfulness Network. He no longer finds leading a class nerve-racking and his grown-up children have even tried mindfulness with him. “I love seeing the effect it has on people and I’m learning something new every day,” he says. “It’s become my purpose and I still take 30 minutes each morning to reconnect with myself through my breathing practice.”

At 68 years old, Lunn feels he still has work to do. “The conversation has completely changed around mental health, which is fantastic, but there remain people who think there isn’t anything they can do to help themselves,” he says. “I want to try to show them. That’s why I don’t see myself stopping any time soon.”

(Article source: The Guardian)

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